How the Heck to Pay for Graduate School???


This is mostly a rant, but I'm hoping someone may have some insight.

So, I've gotten my results back for Master's of Landscape Architecture programs, and I got into my top choice: UC Berkeley! At first, I was really excited; UCB has been my dream school ever since I went to a summer program there during undergrad, and they even offered me a $10k scholarship for my first year. However, the reality of just how much it costs to go to UCB has finally hit me. Even with the scholarship they offered me, the cost of tuition, living expenses, studio supplies, etc. for the 3-year program is going to be just under $190k. That's insane! How can anyone actually afford to go to design school with the salaries of this career being what they are?

The upside of UCB is that their TA positions cover tuition and most fees. Should I hope that after my first semester, I can rely on TA positions and continuing student scholarships to cover the majority of the cost? I know how bad of an idea it would be to take $190k in loans, I would never be able to pay them off.

I wan to be a landscape architect so, so badly. It is truly my dream career, and I would be pretty miserable doing anything else. I did get into my state school's landscape architecture program, but even then it is still $100k to go there, and it is a much lower ranked school with fewer financial aid opportunities for grad students, so that also doesn't seem like a very wise choice.

Sorry, for the tangent, just feeling lost and unsure of what to do.

Mar 12, 21 10:38 pm
Non Sequitur

you're right, it's not a wise choice.

Mar 12, 21 11:27 pm  · 
5  · 

that's not a good choice, mate

Aug 5, 22 8:06 am  · 
Non Sequitur

mate, what's with the mate?

Aug 5, 22 8:14 am  · 

talk like an Aussie day???

Aug 5, 22 12:40 pm  · 
Non Sequitur

throw-ah'noter shrimp on the barbie, mate.

Aug 5, 22 1:01 pm  · 

It would literally be less expensive to move to another country for cheaper tuition. 

If that amount scares you now when it's not even real, you're going to feel overwhelmed once guy get your first repayment notice. Speaking as somebody who took out $50k for loans, it still took me nearly a decade to pay off, and I had to put the rest of my life on hold (buying a home, new car, vacations, etc). I don't regret it because it helped get me where I am now, but that isn't the case for most.

This is not a good idea. Your salary will never be such that the debt isn't a very significant portion of your income. 

Mar 13, 21 12:37 pm  · 
3  · 

I decided to take that plunge into the 150k+ debt to get my masters degree at CCA in San Francisco. Though after getting my degree and being there I felt like my experience wasn't worth the amount of money that I paid to live in San Francisco and pay tuition, getting a masters degree was worth it for my career opportunity afterwards. The looming large amount of debt is something to grapple with but fortunately most of it is government loans and the pay back amount per month is manageable (though it will be for at least 20 years). I could have spent less money if i had stayed for my masters in state at UMD but I had always wanted to live in California. So I used grad school as a way to escape to a new place that I always wanted to be. Yes, I could have moved after school but at the time I was so worried that I'd be to broke to move then and never get out that I never thought about the possibility.

All in all it allowed me to do what I always wanted to do, live in a place that I always wanted, and be happy which is more important than money to me and I don't regret it.

I am not sure if that helps at all.

Mar 13, 21 6:39 pm  · 
5  · 

190K in three years? are you paying out of state tuition?  

First the cost of housing is high in the bay area but you can find smaller Les glamorous housing, or if you think you can manage become a Resident Advisor (RA) for on campus or off campus student housing. also consider that you will have some income over the summer and possibly a part time gig while in school so that income should offset some of the money you need to borrow. Best places to have a part time job while in design school is the campus architect's office or physical plant as they are much more accommodating for finals and studio crunch times, if you can schedule the time off in advance. They also can become good references.

Also on the housing front, calculate that cost of commuting in, time, fuel, parking, car payments, and the cost difference in housing in a place further out from the campus. If it is a train or bike commute that is even better. You don't have to live in Berkeley.

Studio supplies, you do not need to build models out of pristine plywood, foam core or other fancy stuff, study models can be built with cardboard from boxes and sticks (trees) and minimal store bought materials. if people scoff just say you are trying to recycle and be sustainable. Otherwise you are probably going to be doing more digital than physical models.

Check to see if some of the student fees are optional, if you are never going to go to a basketball game do you need to pay the student fee that let's you in at a discount. If you have affordable health insurance you might be able to opt out of the more expensive student health program.

Hope this helps

Over and OUT

Peter N

Mar 15, 21 1:43 pm  · 
3  · 

I wouldn't count on TA positions to offset cost if they were not offered when admitted. If cost is a concern, don't go to either and apply to schools that are more generous/cheaper.

Mar 15, 21 1:53 pm  · 
5  · 

Go to Norway, free for everyone in the majority of Universities.

Mar 16, 21 11:38 am  · 
1  · 

Thank you all for your thoughts. It's given me more to think about. :)

Mar 18, 21 1:18 pm  · 

Never understood why folks feel obliged to pay so much for university education ..... particularly when the profession pays so poorly and most become burdened till middle age with school debt.

and they say architects make bad business people, go figure!

Mar 18, 21 6:33 pm  · 
1  · 

The TA positions are a carrot on a stick, often this will not materialize unless you are truly exceptional. Getting a $10k scholarship is a bit rare for LAEP, congrats for this.

Have you factored in getting in-state tuition after the first year? What are you estimating for rent and materials? $190k sounds really high.

You could get a part time job, but this will only work if you have great time management skills and are already proficient in the software programs and workflows.

Just a head's up - if you do decide to come to Berkeley, the overarching narrative in the LAEP department about anything is "we have no money, we only have 1 staff person, sorry."

Mar 18, 21 10:53 pm  · 
K Way

Hi Zoidian! What did you end up deciding to do? 

I am in the same pickle. Want to pursue an MLA, and have priced out my in-state and preferred out of state program costs. At my state school, it will cost $87,000 for tuition and living for 3 years. At an out of state school (not private) it's $147,000 or $176,000. All this without financial aid, scholarships, or potential TA positions added in. But even with $6,000-$10,000 in aid, it's still a lot to pay for 3 years! 

I'm also wondering how anyone can afford to go to graduate school. 

Aug 4, 22 12:32 pm  · 
Non Sequitur

100k for any arch-related degree is criminal.

Aug 4, 22 2:39 pm  · 
4  · 

I went to a two year Master's program and TA'd for a semester (the administration limited them to one semester to make the opportunities a little more equitable).

It's truly the best gig out there (free tuition and stipend). During your first / second semester you need to be proactive and find the professors with TAs, introduce yourself and let them know you'd like to TA for their class. At my alma mater the professors would submit a list of students they'd like to work with and admin would distribute the spots from that.

Did you work at an office before? Tell that to your Professional Practice professor. Ask your studio professor if they would put a good word in with some of the other professors, etc. Develop a good rapport with your work and attitude and you should be able to secure those TA positions. 

Aug 4, 22 12:57 pm  · 
1  · 
K Way

Thanks for the good advice!

Aug 5, 22 11:09 am  · 

Federick Law Olmstead had no formal landscape training. Read his biography, visit his works. Not sure the coursework would be beneficial from a cost viewpoint if it was free because of the lost earning years. 

Aug 4, 22 1:16 pm  · 
Non Sequitur

Still beating that dead horse... exemption to the rule yadadada. How many disgruntled and unsuccessful "professionals" are there for every one Olmstead?

Aug 4, 22 2:38 pm  · 
1  · 

hehehe. the elite schools charging exorbitant amount of sums for their names, and the professors who amplify the sanctity and nobleness of architectural profession at the schools are just as toxic as bad employers. The degrees are overpriced and if the word "architect" did not have the allure it has, those schools will have to close down architecture schools. 

Although a majority of architecture students at "top" schools are from rich families, who have wisely decided to earn much less than their parents.

Aug 4, 22 3:58 pm  · 
3  · 

For an average joe like me, having 100K+ loan is super painful.  That's what my wife had when she dropped out of a law school.  She worked her butt off for 3 years living in her grandma's place (rent free) just to cut it under 100k.  We got married in 2013 and even after a series of refinance, we still have one more year to go.  I'm trying to pay it off before our 10th year Wedding Anniversary, so we can celebrate it big... 

My point is it takes a big chunk out of your finance for many years. we have been paying $2000/month for past 3-4 years. The minimum is $910 but then it will take us another 5 years to pay it off with the compound interest..  Having large student loan greatly limited us from buying a house and our affordability as well.  

Aug 4, 22 5:41 pm  · 
3  · 
K Way

I'm so sorry Stasis. That sounds really difficult. We often ask the question "is it worth it" to take on debt/degrees, and boil it all down to price tags, principals, and compound interest. But we forget to mention the other costs, such as home-ownership set-backs, delaying or not having children at all, inability to buy a new car or take trips/travel to live a fully expansive kind of life. Those are all serious sacrifices that effect a quality of life. Is the degree, the new professional career, worth that? I'm wondering myself. Good luck to you with your last year of payments. I hope you celebrate in a big & wonderful way!! You both deserve it. 

Aug 5, 22 11:06 am  · 
1  · 

Thanks K Way for encouraging words. It was challenging in the beginning as both of us only made little over 50K when we first got married. Having a debt still taught us to be more responsible with our finance and appreciate more good things in life. We are grateful that neither of us did not get seriously sick or laid off. We constantly sought ways to improve our situation - buying/selling houses, refinance, looking for higher paying jobs, etc. I think this is just how life is..  It throws lemon(s) at us, but we just have to make lemonades nonetheless. 

Aug 5, 22 2:26 pm  · 

Zoidian, can you defer for one year and in the meantime move to California so that you can establish yourself as a California resident and then pay in state tuition?   When I went to Berkeley my parents only paid out of state tuition the first year. After that first year they paid in state tuition. 

Aug 4, 22 5:52 pm  · 
1  · 
Non Sequitur

must be nice not to have to pay for art school on your own.

Aug 5, 22 8:13 am  · 
1  · 

My M.Arch graduate school ended up being $30K CAD for 2.5 years. 

Aug 5, 22 6:43 pm  · 
1  · 

Where did you go?

Dec 15, 22 10:47 pm  · 

perfect application for this meme.

Dec 16, 22 5:11 pm  · 

Do a medical clinic. If you're not afraid of getting your blood drawn or feeling side effects of random drugs (approved by the FDA) you can make anywhere from $2000 for a week up to like $31,000 for 3 months. You stay at the hospital in your own room, free but mandatory meals, and compliance with testing. I freelanced and worked on my portfolio in my down time and walked away with 7k for 2 weeks. Every summer you could get a remote option internship and get paid for work + make bank at a longer trial... you could even sublet your apartment. 

Spaulding clinicals is a good one

Dec 20, 22 3:10 pm  · 

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